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Aurora Q4 Revenue Drops, Profits Narrow

NEW YORK, Feb 15 - Aurora Biosciences said Thursday its fourth-quarter revenue slipped 17 percent to $16.5 million, compared with $19.9 million in the year ago period. 

The San Diego-based company did not offer a reason why its revenues dropped but noted that it generated revenues from such deals as an exclusive collaboration with Senomyx to develop consumer products that enhance taste and olfaction, a licensing agreement with Deltagen, and an ion channel technology agreement with GlaxoSmithKline.

Aurora markets fluorescence assay technologies, a functional genomics program, an automated master compound store, and an ultra-high throughput screening system to miniaturize and automate drug screening and profiling assays.

For the year, revenues were up 26 percent to $63.8 million, compared with $50.5 million.

Total operating expenses increased 18% in the fourth quarter to $15.9 million, as the company increased its staff and incurred merger and acquisition expenses. For the year, total operating expenses increased 23 percent to $63.4 million. 

Fourth quarter net income narrowed to $2.2 million, or 10 cents per diluted share, not including a write-down of Aurora's investment in Maxim Pharmaceuticals, compared with net income of $6.5 million, or 34 cents a diluted share, in fourth-quarter 1999.

For the year, net income was $5.7 million, or 26 cents a diluted share, excluding the write-down of its investment in Maxim, compared with net losses of $200,000, or one penny a share, in 1999.

In the fourth quarter, Aurora announced a merger with PanVera, a biotechnology company that makes protein drug targets and screens protein assays. The merger is expected to close during the first three months of this year.

In December Aurora announced that it had installed of Module 3 of its UHTSS at Bristol Myers Squibb, completing the first system for a collaborator. The company expects to integrate the remaining collaborators' UHTSS platforms throughout 2001. And Deltagen licensed Aurora’s Green Fluorescence Protein technology. 

Aurora said it expects to post revenues of around $90 million in 2001, including revenues from PanVera. Of this target, about 85% is expected to come from Aurora and about 15% from PanVera. Aurora expects revenue of around $17 million for the first quarter of 2001. 

The company also expects to increase its R&D budget by 60 percent this year. Aurora invested $14.4 million in R&D in 2000. 

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